There are two sides to every story, and on Thursday, future NBA Hall of Famer Ray Allen told his.
Years from now, those that were fortunate enough to have seen the team play will probably tell their grandchildren about the 2007-08 NBA Champion Boston Celtics.
Led by Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Allen and Rajon Rondo, those Celtics became an excellent basketball team in rather quick fashion, going 66-16 in their first season together and beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals.
Had they not been undercut by injuries and had the opportunity to keep their band together, the Celtics may have very well won three consecutive championships.
Instead, they may go down as being one of the best champions to fail to win more than one title.
After losing to the Lakers in the 2010 NBA Finals, the Celtics would lose to the Miami HEAT in both the 2011 and 2012 playoffs. With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade having been unsuccessful in their individual attempts to overthrow the Celtics as an Eastern Conference power, they would eventually team up and turn the tide on the aging trio.
Ray Allen became the first member of the team’s core four to leave, as he opted to sign with the Miami HEAT after becoming a free agent in July 2012. That Allen joined the team that was a rival of the Celtics was considered an act of betrayal by not only fans in Boston, but by his former teammates.
In the years that have followed, the circumstances under which Allen left Boston for Miami weren’t well-known. All that seemed to be common knowledge was that Pierce and Garnett felt that Allen abandoned the team and, it was alleged, Allen departed Boston without as much as a phone call to any of his former teammates.
Since then, there’s been a lot of guessing as to what exactly caused Allen to leave, and until Thursday, he’d remained relatively silent on the matter.
Appearing on ESPN’s First Take on Thursday, Allen finally told his side of the story.
“When I left, it was clear that the team wasn’t doing what they needed to do to bring me back into the next year into the fold,” Allen said.
“We wanted a new contract,” he said, clarifying his position that he and his agent were involved in season-long negotiations with the Celtics prior to his becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2012.
In all, according to Allen, his departure from Boston had nothing to do with personal feelings or animus and everything to do with business. According to him, he ultimately decided that his tenure in Boston was over when Danny Ainge issued him an ultimatum and offered him a below-market contract in a “take it or leave it” proposition.
From that point, Allen says, he began discussing his other options with his wife and his agent—the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves and, of course, Miami.
“By the time [free agency] came, [the Celtics] had signed everyone else contractually and then when it came time for me, it was like, ‘This is all we have left for you,’ and we had the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies and the Minnesota Timberwolves.”
While Allen did admit that there was some static between him and Rajon Rondo, he suggested that his run-ins with Rondo were nothing that he couldn’t deal with and that, for him, the major reason be left Boston was business.
“I didn’t know where I was gonna end up, but when you look at the dominoes and how they fall, you have your opinions in front of you. I’m not gonna sabotage myself because people are gonna be mad that I go to Miami,” Allen said.
“I have an opportunity to win a championship ring… Once you put the cards on the table, this [was] the best position I had. Once I know that my tenure in Boston [was] over, I had to go where I knew I had the best opportunity to win.”
During Allen’s description of the events that led to his departure from Boston, one name that seemed relevant didn’t come up: O.J. Mayo.
In a 2013 interview with SLAM Magazine, Allen revealed that the Celtics agreed to trade him to Memphis in exchange for Mayo at the 2012 trade deadline. In that interview, Allen stated that Ainge told him that the trade was done and that Allen notified his family that they would be relocating to Memphis.
Thereafter, the trade fell apart, but Allen emerged from the situation having felt that “loyalty” was only a one-way street.
“For three years the team had shopped me around and tried to move me,” Allen told SLAM.
“For that final year I was there, I was actually traded to Memphis. I got the phone call and told that I was traded for O.J. Mayo… I took that into my summer, that I could potentially—regardless of what I did for the team—there’s no great loyalty shown amongst the teams to the players, ’cause they’ll trade you in a heartbeat.”
Another reason why Allen’s departure from Boston has gotten renewed attention was because he was conspicuously absent from Paul Pierce’s jersey retirement ceremony in Boston in February.
“First of all, I wasn’t invited,” Allen said on First Take.
“At no point did anybody reach out to me and say, ‘We would love for you to be here’… I knew nothing about his jersey retirement.”
Allen noticeably posted a photo on Instagram during Pierce’s ceremony. It was perceived as a slight against Pierce. The perception was that Allen simply had better things to do than make the trip from Los Angeles (where the photo was taken) to Boston.
At the end of the day, it was good to hear Allen speak about his exit and tell his side of the story, especially after Garnett (who currently works for TNT and has his own platform) appeared on the network with Pierce, Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis and discussed Allen and his departure from the team at length.
The former Celtics didn’t exactly use the term “traitor” on air, but many of their comments suggested that they felt that Allen betrayed them by leaving Boston.
Allen was asked about that.
“I would have much more appreciated it if [Garnett] brought me on the show and told me, ‘You know, let’s clear the air, let’s figure this out, let’s mend the fences,’ instead of sitting here talking about why you’re mad at me,” Allen said.
“I’m a brother. KG and I grew up together. [He’s] forgotten the genesis of our relationship. We were kids struggling to make it, to make a life better for our kids and our families. At what point do you just say, ‘It’s just basketball, it’s not personal?’”
Far from perfect, Allen did own up to the fact that he could have engaged his former teammates more and let them know that he’d felt his tenure with the team had ended, and he mentioned Paul Pierce by name.
“I’ve made mistakes and I can admit that,” Allen said. “I could admit that I should have really thoroughly engaged those guys as I was going through the process, but it’s difficult at the time.”
Allen said that he still loves his former teammates and has no ill will toward any of them. He would be open to receiving a phone call, so it’ll be interesting to see whether or not that actually happens.
Paul Pierce, coincidentally, is currently employed as an NBA analyst by ESPN, while Garnett, as mentioned, is employed by TNT. Each of the players have platforms to respond to Allen’s comments, so in all likelihood, we haven’t heard the last from one of the more discussed teams this generation has seen.
Still, it was nice to hear directly from Ray Allen… Finally.
The majority of the 15-plus minute interview is available on ESPN’s YouTube channel.
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